Taking the Times to task

So many blasting the New York Times, so little time… Ann Coulter:

The Times has now willingly abandoned its mantle as the newspaper of record,” leapfrogging its impending technological obsolescence. It was already up against the Internet and Lexis-Nexis as a research tool. All the Times had left was its reputation for accuracy.

As this episode shows, the Times is not even attempting to preserve a reliable record of events. Instead of being a record of history, the Times is merely a record” of what liberals would like history to be–the Pentagon in crisis, the war going badly, global warming melting the North Pole, and protests roiling Augusta National Golf Club. Publisher Arthur Pinch” Sulzberger has turned the paper into a sort of bulletin board for Manhattan liberals. Jonah Goldberg: The Times says that this episode marks a a low-point in the 152-year history of the newspaper.” For Times worshippers, this was an admirable admission of wrongdoing. But we skeptics want to know if this blow to the Times’ reputation outranked, say, the newspaper’s deliberate downplaying of the Holocaust?

Did this journalistic fraud” exceed the Pulitzer-winning deception of Walter Duranty, the Times correspondent who explicitly lied about Stalin’s purges and forced famines? How about correspondent Herbert Matthews, who promised the world that the rebel-leader Fidel Castro wasn’t a communist, even as Castro slaughtered innocents and struck deals with the Soviets?

There’s nothing wrong with admitting that this Blair fiasco is a big deal, but no one died because of anything Blair wrote. It seems the egos of a few execs are on par with the deaths of millions. Marvin Olasky: Venerable Times columnist William Safire defended his employer and suggested that the Blair affair is allowing conservative critics to practice schadenfreude, what Germans call the guilty pleasure one secretly takes in another’s suffering.” That’s clever and it might be true, except that the influence of the Times is such that when it fails, millions of innocent people suffer.

In the early 1930s, for example, Times Moscow correspondent Walter Duranty helped Joseph Stalin cover up a Soviet extermination campaign that claimed millions of lives, mostly in the Ukraine–and when other reporters told the truth, Duranty libeled them. In the late 1960s, the Times beat the pro-abortion drum so loudly that the Supreme Court began to listen, and the cost was many more millions of lives.

Blair’s misconduct was spectacular, but no one died because of it, so the Times has certainly had many lower points in the 152 years since Henry Raymond, a conservative Christian, founded it. (Raymond would be turning over in his grave, as the saying goes.) Thomas Sowell: That is why this was not just an isolated scandal but a sign of moral dry rot in the leadership of the New York Times.

Again, the paper’s own account is the most damning. Far from not knowing what was going on, the Times acknowledges that various editors and reporters expressed misgivings about Mr. Blair’s reporting skills, maturity and behavior during his five-year journey from raw intern to reporter on national news events. Their warnings centered mostly on errors in his articles.”

More than a year ago, one of the Times’s own editors wrote a memo that said plainly: We have got to stop Jayson from writing for the Times. Right Now.” Instead, Blair was promoted to national news coverage. And on it goes…

May 15, 2003